The dark side of the legend

Its the stuff legends are made of. In 1985 a geeky college dropout and his guitar-playing buddy started a company that went on to dominate the world in a fashion never seen since the heyday of the Roman Empire. The story has a dark side to it, however. In the course of his mechanical rise to the top Bill Gates left no toe unstomped.

"Once bitten, twice shy"

As Microsoft spread its slimy tentacles over the burgeoning computer industry, company after company tried to protect their little niche from the monster that knew no boundaries. Every time an upstart company cast an eye on Microsoft's turf (namely the entire computer industry and anything connected to it), it was systematically squeezed, crushed, chewed and swallowed.

First blood

The first company to feel the wrath of Gates was IBM, the technological behemoth that ruled the computer industry in the prehistoric era before the personal computer revolution. Ironically enough, IBM had breathed life into Microsoft by becoming their first customer. They had licensed the MS-DOS operating system from Microsoft after Gates had bought the system (formerly known as Quick & Dirty OS) for a song and repackaged it. IBM & Microsoft had been collaborating on the successor to MS-DOS when Gates decided that the product was taking to long & decided to quickly piece together his own system. His programmers threw together a system that ran on top of MS-DOS and made it easier to use the computers that IBM sold. This was Windows 3.1, which taught IBM a painful lesson: It doesn't matter how good the product is if it doesn't get out on time. Microsoft learned the corollary: It doesn't matter how badly the badly the product has been designed if it is the first one on the market and grabs enough market share. IBM had just created a monster.

Anybody else want some?

At around the same time that Microsoft took IBM down to its knees, it dealt a crippling blow to another startup company, one that had carved out a niche by selling personal computers that normal people could actually use to get work done. The company was Apple, founded by a pair of guys named Steve. It had made a spectacular entrance by running what is probably the highest-impact TV commercial ever seen, during the Super bowl of 1984. Microsoft ate Apple's lunch. Gates didn't even flinch as his company plagiarised the best features of Apple's Macintosh operating system and then pretended to have made revolutionary strides in computer software technology. Apple promptly launched a lawsuit but Microsoft's army of lawyers prolonged the suit untill the decision became irrelevant as Windows 95 slowly killed the Macintosh on the market.

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